Political theory and Political Science, both are interrelated and supplementary to each other. However, some sort of confusion prevails over their interrelationship. According to one view, political theory is a generic term or major category which includes both Political Science and political philosophy. The second view maintains that Political Science is wider, which along with its scientific components, gives proper place both to political philosophy and political theory. Most of the Indian and Asian universities have adopted this view.
The third view believes in a value-free Political Science, having no relation with unverifiable values or political theories. Most of the radical behaviourists uphold this view. As regards their interrelationship, Catlin maintains a broader perspective. According to him, political theory involves common sense as well as value determination.
He divides ‘polities’, that is subject-matter of politics, into (a) political practice, and (b) political theory. Political theory again is sub-divided into (i) Political Science, and (ii) Political Philosophy. Political Science deals with phenomena of control. All acts or units of control come under its purview and can be studied in a quantitative manner.
Political philosophy discusses justification of values, motivation, direction, antagonism, change etc. He does not agree with Morgenthau that Political Science incorporates political theory. According to Catlin’s view, Political Science is related to means whereas political philosophy concerns with ends, and, thus, both of them can be subsumed under political theory. In any analysis of politics, means and ends can never be separated from each other.
In this context, it is also very necessary to distinguish between political thought and political theory. Political thought includes political ideas and political thinking. Political theory in the modern sense is not identical with political thought. Political thought is a very wide term incorporating all forms of expressions pertaining to political entities, including Political Science, theory, ideology, opinion, ideas etc.
Gettel, Doyle and several others belong to this school of thought. James A. Gould and Vincent V. Thursby like to study subject matter of Political Science in form of political thought. However, one cannot agree with them. Political theory and political thought, despite their close relationship, are different in nature, scope and validity. The latter is much more subjective, speculative, abstract, transitory and ambiguous. Thoughts or ideas pervade every institution, structure, process and ideology.
Political theory as such incorporates political ideas of specific nature – empirical, communicable, valid and presented as a set of generalisations, A very small part of political thought can be regarded as political theory. Political theory is a long-term and painstaking enterprise, whereas, political thought is more related to the world of amorphous type – kaleidoscopic, imaginary, mystic, subjectivist and controversial. One should not equate political thought with political theory.
Andrew Hacker is interested is studying ‘political theory’ only. According to him, a theory is ‘an essay in Political Science if it seems to be the author’s intention to offer generalised descriptions or explanations of the behaviour of men and political institutions.’ According of him, every political theorist plays a double role, and is partly a scientist and partly a philosopher.
There cannot be any ‘pure’ description or an ‘objective’ Political Science. The reality which is described is a ‘selective’ one, and the author’s basis for selection is ultimately value-oriented or philosophical. An individual’s moral sense gives shape to his perceptions and guides his interpretation of what he sees. Apart from these two categories, there is the third category of’ policy science’ which tells that if you want these ends, then these are the means that you ought to use. Policy science is a kind of ‘if … then’ prescription, found, more or less, in all theoretical writings.
Theory, in ideal terms, is dispassionate and disinterested. Science describes political reality without trying to pass any value judgement – implicitly or explicitly. Philosophy prescribes, on the basis of some visualised reality, rules of conduct to secure the good life for all of the society, and not for certain individuals or classes. A theorist does not have a personal interest in the suggested or existing political arrangement in a country, class or party.
When a theorist becomes an interested party or develops a vested interest for his propositions, he converts himself into an ideologue. An ideologue is an interested party who defends things as they are or criticises the status quo in the hope that a new distribution of power favourable to him would come up.
The interest of an ideology is to justify a particular system of power in society. According to Hacker, only for analytical purposes it is possible to separate theory from ideology, otherwise, all political theorists are inevitably ideologues because, like other men, they are creatures of emotion and interest. In the hands of ideologue, philosophy is transformed into rationalisation for current or future political and social arrangements, and science into distorted description or explanation of political and social reality.
Though theory and ideology are distinctly separate, yet all theorists are not aware of the ideological elements which enter into their writings. Some surreptitiously hide their real character and do not declare their interests. As most of these elements get mixed up, only a small minority can really theories.
In sum, political theory, according to Hacker, is a body of philosophical and scientific knowledge, which regardless of when and where it was originally written can increase our understanding of the world in which we live today and will live tomorrow. Obviously, Hacker’s sense of political theory is different from modern political theory which invariably puts emphasis on its explanatory power and is of heuristic nature.
Political theory, in both its old and new forms, should also be separated from political philosophy. From older times, they have often been identified as one and the same. Political philosophy is a part of, or indirectly related to general philosophy, sometimes resting on the border lines of metaphysics. Concepts of political philosophy are subjective, abstract, mystic, general, and beyond empirical observation.
A philosopher, such as Plato, Rousseau or Hegel, reaches his universal truths, axiomatic evidences or basic elements through speculation, imagination, insight, or abstract reasoning. He looks at political phenomena deductively on the basis of his unverifiable mental perspective, and asks the common man and institutions to rise up to that level. His assumptions and derivations are not necessarily testable or verifiable.
Modern political theory, on the contrary, is quite distinct and related only to political reality, or objectivity which is worldly, sensory, empirical and knowable. It can be checked, studied, tested or verified, through standard methods, tools and techniques. By its very nature, it is explanatory, inductive and fact-based. Values and ideals put forward by various political philosophies are taken up by Modern Political Theory as propositions, hypotheses and hunches for observation and testing.
Political theory is also different from political analysis. The latter can be a part of the process of theory-making, political philosophy. Political Science, interpretations etc, In analysis, one looks for consistency of ideas, elements, factors or events, congruence with reality, coherence among statements, reconciliation between purpose and result, and cause-effect relationship. Analysis is a means, tool or instrumental activity to achieve a broader goal like theory building.
Arnold Brecht stands for scientific political theory only. He points out that before the nineteenth century, philosophy, theory and science were used interchangeably. Still some such relationship is maintained. Theory attempts to explain phenomena in general and abstract terms. When scientific rules are followed, it becomes a scientific theory. But the latter is never a ‘law’ though it refers to some general ‘law’ or regularity. Law is rather a ‘fact’. Similarly, not all theory is necessarily scientific, and not everything scientific becomes theoretical.
Originally, philosophy was all-inclusive and coextensive with science, explaining everything – ideas about world, man, god, reality and truth. It is related both to is and ought, and is not limited or bound by the rules of scientific method. It goes beyond conditions and limitations of knowledge, logic and methodology. Now theory has moved towards science – its procedure, precision and control. Political theory, as such, stands in opposition to political philosophy, and accepts the latter, at the most, as its ‘working hypothesis’.
According to him, a theory ‘is a proposition or set of propositions designed to explain something with reference to data or inter-relations not directly observed or not otherwise manifest.’ In order to make political theory ‘scientific’, he has’ elaborately presented his theory of scientific method and scientific value relativism. Through them, political theory can impart ‘inter-subjectively transmissible knowledge enabling us to explain political phenomena scientifically.
However, under the prevailing circumstances, one cannot expect to make political theory so much ‘scientific’ so as to equate it with natural sciences. Brecht’s concept of scientific political theory can be taken up as an ‘ideal type’ and theoretical constructions formulated within the borderline of empiricism. In fact, all ‘modern’ theory-building attempts operate in between the arena of science and empiricism.
With gradual advancement of science and technology, and a neatly developed terminology, scholars of Political Science can hope to achieve their ultimate goal. For this avowed purpose, the meaning and application of the concept of ‘political theory’ must be comprehended only in modern or empirical sense, with emphasis on theory observable in almost all classical and traditional theories.’ Classical theories deal with metaphysical realities, universal truths, whole human life, social structure, ideas and values.
Their methods mostly are philosophical, speculative, historical, introspective, and conclusive. They do not stand neutral towards contemporary society and its prevailing environment. These theorists go beyond the obvious and dives deeper into social problems, institutions, events, and concentration of ‘understanding’ (verstehn). As such, they are often lost in the labyrinth of metaphysical and ontological realities which cannot be comprehended by laymen.
They enter the field of political theory through analysis of ‘ideas’, often neglecting existing realities. Philosophy, therefore, dominated the field of theory, discussing primarily, reason, rational man, origin, purpose and nature of state, law of nature, future or goal of man, general welfare and others. Their quest as such led them to develop concepts of sovereignty, rule of law, nationalism etc. Subjectivity in theoretical formulations overwhelmed their theories with multiplicity, ambiguity, utter abstractness, and total lack of comparability, and attachment with empirical reality.